Your Money or Your Life

The original Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) by Joseph Dominguez and Vicki Robin is often touted as the cornerstone to today’s FIRE movement (Financial Independence, Early Retirement). So of course there was a buzz when Robins announced an updated 2018 version. The original had been on my ‘should read’ list for a while, but with the recent update it moved up to my ‘need to read soon’ list. (Yes, I have multiple levels of reading lists.)

It only felt right to get a book about frugality from the public library. I asked a coworker, who I knew had placed a hold on it, if there was a long wait. She replied yes, of course there was a long wait; all the people who wanted to read that book were the kind of people too cheap to buy it. I thought that was hilarious (and likely true). Luckily, when I placed my hold I only had to wait a week despite being number one hundred something on the wait list.

YMYL is technically a nine step financial program that promises to “transform your relationship with money and help you achieve Financial Independence.” I’m not sure about you, but whenever I hear about an x step program and money, red flags of get-rich-quick schemes start flashing in my mind. This book however is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It is more like a better, philosophical version of Dave Ramsey’s seven baby steps to getting out of debt. You’re probably wondering now what the nine steps are, but I won’t summarize them here; you’ll have to read the book (or use google) for that.

My favorite parts of the book were the questions at the end of each chapter.  The questions related to the chapter topic but were pretty open ended and mostly big picture financial, lifestyle, or goal oriented. My husband didn’t read the book, but we went through the questions together as I was reading and they led to some really great conversations.

I liked YMYL’s “no shame, no blame” mantra when reviewing past financial decisions. Looking back at past behavior is key to improving any financial situation. But unlike Dave Ramsey who yells at you for the mess you got yourself in, YMYL’s softer approach to accountability gets the lessons learned without the needless guilt and shaming tactics.

I also loved the life-energy concept and how it has you add up all the costs of working, such as commute expenses and time, work clothes, and vacations or other de-stressing activities you need as escapism from work. The costs of working is something many people don’t seem to consider when making big life decisions, such as where to work or where to live.

Happily, the ideas for investments have been updated, since the original recommendations didn’t fit today’s world. The original book talked about investing in bonds, but since then the time of high interest bonds has past. Instead, this version gives several (general) ideas for types of investments, including explanations of the now popular low-cost index funds. The book does not give specific investment advice (like which funds to pick).

For those just starting to get interested in taking control of their finances and/or reevaluating their priorities and goals, this book is perfect. There is nothing really new for those who are already focused on FIRE. But it’s a great refresher to keep you engaged and valuable in that it makes you take time to ponder the more philosophical questions about how you want your life to be.


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